A compilation of earlier released recordings done under the supervision of British classical conductor Simon Rattle, Americana collects pieces by American composers (and one Russian), and is notable for its seamless cohesiveness (it doesn't feel like an anthology at all, but more like a logical, free-flowing sequence) and for being called Americana and not including a single Aaron Copland piece. The emphasis here is on American jazz, and compositions by Duke Ellington and George Gershwin are featured prominently in jazz-classical fusions that work at least as much as they don't. The 16-minute version of Gershwin's classic "Rhapsody in Blue" included here is revealing, and a wonderful exploration of theme at the juncture of jazz and classical; when it works, it opens doors, and when it doesn't, well, it simply fails to swing. Portions of Igor Stravinsky's "Ebony Concerto" are included here because of the American jazz sensibilities at the center of the composition, and it works perfectly. Another impressive selection is an obscure Ellington piece called "That Doo-Wah Thing," which manages to do what is so difficult in grafting classical and jazz together: It swings. Combining jazz and classical seems like an easy thing, but it seldom works well, maybe because jazz, with its unbreakable roots in the blues, is too much like Mark Twain's immortal character, Huck Finn, and is a notoriously hard one to dress up all nice and fancy. Still, Americana raises interesting possibilities.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
|Wonderful Town, musical in 2 acts|
|Ebony Concerto, for clarinet & jazz band|
|Porgy and Bess, opera|